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Drowned boy’s family ponder next move after mother loses High Court fight

Christopher Kapessa’s mother challenged a decision not to prosecute a teenager accused of pushing him into a river.

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Christopher Kapessa, 13, who died after he was allegedly pushed into the River Cynon near Fernhill, Rhondda Cynon Taff, by a 14-year-old boy in July 2019 (Family handout/South Wales Police/PA)

Christopher Kapessa, 13, who died after he was allegedly pushed into the River Cynon near Fernhill, Rhondda Cynon Taff, by a 14-year-old boy in July 2019 (Family handout/South Wales Police/PA)

Christopher Kapessa, 13, who died after he was allegedly pushed into the River Cynon near Fernhill, Rhondda Cynon Taff, by a 14-year-old boy in July 2019 (Family handout/South Wales Police/PA)

Relatives of a boy who drowned while playing with friends are considering their next steps after a High Court challenge against the decision not to prosecute the teenager accused of being responsible failed.

Christopher Kapessa, 13, was allegedly pushed into the River Cynon near Fernhill, Rhondda Cynon Taff, by a 14-year-old boy in July 2019, a High Court hearing was told.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided a prosecution was not in the public interest.

We will have to see what we are going to do for the next step. We need to get in touch with our legal advisersMak King, Christopher's uncle

Christopher’s mother, Alina Joseph, who is from the Cynon Valley, took High Court action against the director of public prosecutions Max Hill, who heads up the CPS.

Lawyers representing her argued the decision not to prosecute the “suspect”, now 17, was “unreasonable or irrational”.

But two judges ruled against her on Monday.

Lord Justice Popplewell and Mr Justice Dove had considered the argument at a hearing in London earlier this month.

Christopher’s uncle, Mak King, said the family was “dreadfully disappointed”.

“We will have to see what we are going to do for the next step,” he said after the ruling.

“We need to get in touch with our legal advisers.”

Lawyers representing the CPS had argued that Ms Joseph’s challenge should be dismissed.

They said specialist prosecutor Moira MacDaid had concluded, after a review, that the decision not to charge the suspect with manslaughter was correct.

Ms MacDaid had considered all relevant evidence with “scrupulous fairness”, they said.

Lord Justice Popplewell said in a written ruling that principal policy guidance for prosecutorial decisions was contained in a Code For Crown Prosecutors issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

He also said “homicide guidance” set the “public interest” bar when prosecuting homicide cases high because the harm caused would “inevitably be of the utmost seriousness…”

Some of the boys were jumping into the river; others in the group were sitting chattingLord Justice Popplewell

Michael Mansfield QC, who led Ms Joseph’s legal team, said his “main submission” was that there had been a “failure to have regard to and apply the homicide guidance”.

Lord Justice Popplewell disagreed and suggested Mr Mansfield’s argument misconstrued policy guidance.

He said Christopher had lived with his mother and six brothers and sisters.

The youngster had “a wide group of friends and was popular”, the judge said.

“On the day in question, some 16 of these friends – all aged 13 or 14 – were playing in and around an area known as the Red Bridge over the Cynon river,” said Lord Justice Popplewell.

“Some of the boys were jumping into the river; others in the group were sitting chatting.”

They were unable to assist him as he kept pulling them under water in panic, and tragically he drownedLord Justice Popplewell

The judge said Christopher was “prevaricating” about jumping in.

A boy was then “seen to push him in the back, causing him to fall into the river”.

Christopher immediately got in to difficulty and the boys, including the one who pushed him, jumped in to help.

The family need to hear the truth and they need justice done according to that truthBeth Winter, Cynon Valley MP

Lord Justice Popplewell added: “However, they were unable to assist him as he kept pulling them under water in panic, and tragically he drowned.”

Judges said the “suspect” could not be identified in media reports of the case.
Labour Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter said: “I’m devastated for Alina.

“I can’t begin to imagine how she must feel and my heart today is with Christopher’s family on this painful day.

“The family need to hear the truth and they need justice done according to that truth.”

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